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Go Green With Co-op America

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Foolanthropy 2006 Donations
Charity Amt. Raised
Co-op America $169,425
NFTE $91,341
Rare Conservation $30,047
Room to Read $25,266
Half the Sky $21,350
TOTAL $337,429
As of January 9, 2007
Foolanthropy 2006
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By Dan Caplinger
December 21, 2006

It's easy to think of the nonprofit world as being completely separate from the business world. After all, nonprofit groups are often the source of some of the most intense frustrations for corporate executives, who feel that activist organizations don't understand economics or the mechanics of business commerce. Conversely, many nonprofit groups see no reason to try to communicate productively with businesses; they see corporate America as the enemy and view the idea of actually trying to talk with business leaders as a waste of time.

That's what makes Co-op America, one of the charities chosen in the 2006 Foolanthropy campaign, so refreshingly different. Instead of simply complaining about practices they don't like and hoping that change will somehow result, Co-op America takes an active role toward accomplishing its goals by involving people from all walks of life. Rather than dictating a solution that may work for one group but not another, Co-op America seeks input from employees, investors, customers, and even business leaders themselves to find workable answers that meet the needs of everyone affected by a particular issue.

Co-op America's focus on economic strategies helps it work with businesses to bring about real change. By realizing the economic power of consumers, it has helped to bridge the gap between the business practices it supports and companies that have resisted change. For instance, if consumers who are highly aware of social and environmental issues weren't willing to pay higher prices for products that meet their standards, then a company such as Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) would be less likely to embrace fair-trade provisions when they buy coffee from farmers, as it did. Without the knowledge that many of Co-op America's supporters are current or potential customers, banks such as Citigroup (NYSE: C) might not be willing to consider changing their lending practices, as it did.

For individuals, Co-op America provides invaluable information about business practices. For instance, by looking at its retailer scorecard, consumers can see that Federated (NYSE: FD) is doing better than many of its peers in avoiding suppliers who use child labor and other unfair labor practices. Also, its National Green Pages gives consumers the means to find companies that do business in accord with their wishes. Co-op America also helps people choose good businesses as investments, both by encouraging shareholder action and by managing the Social Investment Forum, which gives professionals information about socially responsible investing practices that have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Instead of treating their mission as a game of us versus them, Co-op America recognizes that every player in the global economy is important. Just as individuals need businesses to provide jobs and wages to survive, businesses need consumers and investors to operate and succeed. To continue in its role as economic facilitator, Co-op America needs your support. Unless productive approaches like Co-op America's focus on economic solutions succeed, the lack of communication between nonprofit groups and businesses will make it nearly impossible to achieve lasting results. If you agree that Co-op America is on the right track toward integration, you can direct your Foolanthropy contribution through this link.

All of the five charities selected by the 2006 Foolanthropy campaign are worthy causes. We appreciate your generosity and support.

For more Foolanthropy articles, see "Give a Book, Change The World" and "This Year's Foolanthropy Star: You."

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is still working on his gift-giving for the season. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy supports you.

It's easy to think of the nonprofit world as being completely separate from the business world. After all, nonprofit groups are often the source of some of the most intense frustrations for corporate executives, who feel that activist organizations don't understand economics or the mechanics of business commerce. Conversely, many nonprofit groups see no reason to try to communicate productively with businesses; they see corporate America as the enemy and view the idea of actually trying to talk with business leaders as a waste of time.

That's what makes Co-op America, one of the charities chosen in the 2006 Foolanthropy campaign, so refreshingly different. Instead of simply complaining about practices they don't like and hoping that change will somehow result, Co-op America takes an active role toward accomplishing its goals by involving people from all walks of life. Rather than dictating a solution that may work for one group but not another, Co-op America seeks input from employees, investors, customers, and even business leaders themselves to find workable answers that meet the needs of everyone affected by a particular issue.

Co-op America's focus on economic strategies helps it work with businesses to bring about real change. By realizing the economic power of consumers, it has helped to bridge the gap between the business practices it supports and companies that have resisted change. For instance, if consumers who are highly aware of social and environmental issues weren't willing to pay higher prices for products that meet their standards, then a company such as Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) would be less likely to embrace fair-trade provisions when they buy coffee from farmers, as it did. Without the knowledge that many of Co-op America's supporters are current or potential customers, banks such as Citigroup (NYSE: C) might not be willing to consider changing their lending practices, as it did.

For individuals, Co-op America provides invaluable information about business practices. For instance, by looking at its retailer scorecard, consumers can see that Federated (NYSE: FD) is doing better than many of its peers in avoiding suppliers who use child labor and other unfair labor practices. Also, its National Green Pages gives consumers the means to find companies that do business in accord with their wishes. Co-op America also helps people choose good businesses as investments, both by encouraging shareholder action and by managing the Social Investment Forum, which gives professionals information about socially responsible investing practices that have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Instead of treating their mission as a game of us versus them, Co-op America recognizes that every player in the global economy is important. Just as individuals need businesses to provide jobs and wages to survive, businesses need consumers and investors to operate and succeed. To continue in its role as economic facilitator, Co-op America needs your support. Unless productive approaches like Co-op America's focus on economic solutions succeed, the lack of communication between nonprofit groups and businesses will make it nearly impossible to achieve lasting results. If you agree that Co-op America is on the right track toward integration, you can direct your Foolanthropy contribution through this link.

All of the five charities selected by the 2006 Foolanthropy campaign are worthy causes. We appreciate your generosity and support.

For more Foolanthropy articles, see "Give a Book, Change The World" and "This Year's Foolanthropy Star: You."

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is still working on his gift-giving for the season. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy supports you.